Frus­trated Lions say lots to work on

Sunday Times - - SPORT -

COM­ING THROUGH: Rhys Webb of the Bri­tish & Ir­ish Lions makes a break dur­ing yes­ter­day’s open­ing tour match in Whangarei THE Bri­tish and Ir­ish Lions ad­mit­ted to hav­ing “plenty to work on” af­ter a scrappy New Zealand tour opener where they strug­gled to a 13-7 win over a New Zealand Pro­vin­cial Bar­bar­ians side yes­ter­day.

Coach War­ren Gat­land de­scribed the per­for­mance as “not quite ac­cu­rate in some re­ally crit­i­cal mo­ments”.

Be­fore a sell­out crowd of 20 000 at Toll Sta­dium in Whangarei, it was the Bar­bar­ians, a side of rel­a­tively un­known New Zealand pro­vin­cial play­ers, who set the stan­dard for most of the game.

Lions cap­tain Sam War­bur­ton ad­mit­ted the Bar­bar­ians had ex­posed ar­eas the Lions needed to ad­dress in the count­down to the first test against the All Blacks on June 21.

“We’ve got plenty of footage now to work on,” War­bur­ton said as he reeled off a litany of prob­lem ar­eas.

“Some de­fen­sive things, im­prove our at­tack or­gan­i­sa­tion,” he added.

“They stretched us a bit, (we) gave away a few penalties, a few too many at the end and let them back in with some ter­ri­tory, and bet­ter teams are go­ing to pun­ish us a bit there fur­ther down the line.

“We needed to win a few more de­fen­sive col­li­sions, we want to pride our­selves on defence ... and on at­tack ball re­ten­tion. That’s what wins test matches.” Tour open­ers are al­ways a con­cern for a Lions side, with lim­ited prepa­ra­tion and travel fa­tigue re­sult­ing in a lack of pol­ish mak­ing points hard to come by.

For Gat­land, who has promised all his play­ers a start over the first three games, the open­ing match would not have an­swered many ques­tions about the shape of his first test lineup. There was only one suc­cess­ful penalty by Johnny Sex­ton in the first half as the Lions trailed 7-3 at the turn. It took 52 min­utes be­fore An­thony Wat­son scored their first try.

Gat­land was re­luc­tant to name names when ques­tioned about who had im­pressed.

“It was tough on those guys. They were given the re­spon­si­bil­ity of get­ting the tour off to a win,” he said.

“They needed to be a bit more clin­i­cal in terms of fin­ish­ing off the chances that we cre­ated. There was some good ball car­ry­ing out there (and) some im­pact off the bench.” The last time the Lions were in New Zealand, in a 2005 tour, they were held to 17-all at half-time in their first match against the pro­vin­cial Bay of Plenty side be­fore pulling away to win 34-20.

This time they found it even harder to se­cure con­trol. — AFP

See Re­sults col­umn for yes­ter­day’s Su­per Rugby matches


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